Zone 5 Feeds Our Unique Ecosystem

Wildlife is a vital part of the whole ecology of a permaculture site. Dick Copeman campaigns for sustainability for humanity and the forgotten wildlife creatures in our delicate ecosystem.

Dr Dick Copeman is a humble leader full of inspiring ideas. He is one of the founders of Northey Street City Farm in 1994, and still involved in the Farm. Originally a medical doctor, Dick has also worked as a campaigner on food policy, fair trade and sustainability issues. He has a Diploma in Permaculture. And has co-authored the book ‘Inviting Nature to Dinner’ available at earthling enterprises . Here shows us how to integrate more wildlife in our permaculture designs.

Wildlife is a vital part of the whole ecology of a permaculture site.

No place on the planet is complete without
its full range of species.

Dick Copeman
Native Rosella Hibiscus with tiny insects at Shoalhaven Heads Native Botanic Garden
beautiful and tasty food for us as well as wildlife
Native Rosella Hibiscus with tiny insects at Shoalhaven Heads Native Botanic Garden

Wildlife Builds Diverse Ecologies

Each site has specific species who have, over millennia, shaped their own ecology. Each site has an unique ecosystem. The site needs this full and complex ecology to function effectively.

Dick says “If we diminish that wildlife by clearing habitat [and by ‘wildlife’ I include plants as well], excess degradation and too much disturbance well… the site is poorer. Many ‘permies’ realize this and they try their best to incorporate wildlife. I could see that that invertebrates are a very important part of wildlife that are often not acknowledged or overlooked in this whole scheme.

Common brown butterfly Seven mile beach 
National Park
beautiful wildlife
Common brown butterfly at Seven Mile Beach National Park

Tiny Beings, Big Mass of Wildlife

Invertebrates are by far the biggest number of species and the biggest amount of living biomass on any site. They fly around, burrow in the soil and swim in the water. So, in the food web, invertebrates are important mediators. They translate food into energy.

Predatory wasp nymph eating spider that mum stored in nest. Valuable wildlife
Predatory wasp nymph eating spider that mum stored in nest

Many permaculture designers had this idea of you have your intensive veggies in zone one and your fruit trees in zone two. And it’s not till zone four or five that you really have native plants to provide the habitat for your your native insects and other invertebrates. Sure, they provide habitat for native slaters, worms and millipedes and all those provide recycling and decomposing. But what we’re experimenting with at northeast street and in the book is mixing and matching native plants with exotic food plants. And also highlighting the role of native foods, or bush foods. And encouraging people to to grow more of them.

Book 'Inviting Nature to Dinner' promotes incorporation of wildlife

Bush Foods Feed Us Too

“I don’t think 25 million Australians… will ever be able to feed themselves totally on bush food plants. Because we’re no longer hunter-gatherers, like the original people were, with a much lower population rate. But there are many bush foods that we could be eating more. And the thing we highlight in the book is that those bush foods support or provide food for many more native insects and other invertebrates than our exotic food plants.

Bush lollies - walking stick palm Linospadix monostachyos 
very edible wildlife and people food
Linospadix monostachyos- Bush Lollies

Some exotic plants food plants support native insects but nowhere near the rate that the native plants will. And even with the exotic food plants we can still incorporate a lot of native plants in amongst our orchards and food forests. Native plants assist in enriching the soil. And they attract pollinators and herbivores to help with cycling of nutrients.

Rediscover Indigenous ‘Good Bug’ Mixes

“So what we’re experimenting with, (and finding good results) is incorporating native plants instead of exotics. A lot of permaculture people will plant good bug mix to bring in predatory wasps that will predate on caterpillars that might be eating our tomatoes or our corn”. But the good bug mix usually uses exotic plants like Queen Anne’s lace. “We know you can provide a much better effect through planting native plants. And get more support for your whole ecosystem. We’re hoping to be able to demonstrate that it really does work!” says a very happy Dick Copeman.

Farming For Her Community

Building community helps farmers. Direct marketing enables the farm to increase diversity and build a fairer income. Flavia Assuncao of  GrowingRootsPermaculture talks about her personal experience in farming and direct marketing.

“Some plants are very important for diversity but people don’t know how to cook” the harvests that Flavia and Bunya grow. But now, they have a whole community of supporters. Flavia says the close contact with customers encourages them to keeping farming. Customers take food to share with their whole family. I guess the main issue is like – sometimes I even cry because they say ‘this food is lifting my soul – or like, when I eat this food I have to the energy to concentrate. it is all an important part of their culture.’

Growing Support for Healthy Farming Practices

Flavia says “for me is what’s keeping me going”. Everytime when Flavia feels like – ‘argh! its too hard’ – she gets a message that someone coming! “Really the Islanders spirit (vibe) is, you know for them – life is beautiful and everything is okay and if they have it fully they are ahead and normally the bunch is when we sell you know commercial bunch is gonna be little. But I always make sure that I make it for them, Islander style.

I always say to them so they come they get so happy because normally for them food is to share. so you know i always make sure of that and they bring drink and food for us too. When we always get food from them when they come, they bring trays of pumpkin, taro and sweetcorn. “

Two-way exchange

“We learned so much well. We had some guys coming from Fiji /Sydney (750kms), do you know? So we were harvesting cassava and they were telling us: ‘Look, you can plant it like this…’ and so we get the perspective from so many different cultures as well and we learn. and it is so good and this is something that really brings me life,  because I am not from Australia as well, and once I had cassava and all these bananas to eat, I could see that I was really grounded here. Because it really is part of who I am. “

Mixed farming in Food Forest

Customers also show Flavia how to grow a mix of forest and have the animals together in the shade.

“They come here and tell me: ‘This is like Bali!’ (their home)! Where they grow forest,  they grow food,  and they have the animals together. They cook under the shade, together with the trees,  there’s no separation.  They are part (of the Ecosystem),  they live in spaces like this on their islands,  so  it’s so good to see how much inspired (encouragement) they get when they come in here,  and they feel home, this place feels like home for them.  it is very familiar landscape with bananas,  and they use the leaves from papaya, the leaves from cassava,  because on their island theirs resources are a bit short,  so they use so many different parts of plants,  bananas flowers, parts of the banana, they use everything to cook,

So we are learning so much of having all these cultures around us and  this connection  is actually really inspiring and rewarding, because they allow us to grow with  diversity.  and having different plants we have  different “tastes”  for everyone, and  they cannot find this food on the supermarket,  like pumpkin tips (shoots) , chokos tips (shoots) they cannot go to the supermarket to find that.. When they get here , they say: “Do you have taroooo!!! Betel leaf!!! I had a lady that bought  a whole box with betel leaf and while her daughter  was talking to me,  she started to eat in the car everything that had in their box. Because this food is part of who they are, and they miss they food.

Having all this culture around us that this meeting is actually really inspiring and rewarding.

Bunya and Flavia use clever food forest disruption to boost production.

Growing Diversity

I started selling only chillies, but now we have more them 20 produces in our list to sell every week, . It was a very slowly process, but  what we are building with the community is so strong,  that keep us growing (going for longer) as well.

The Value of Feeling Supported

Farming can be lonely but Flavia says “For us, this work is not about make a lot of money, in short time, It is more about building community, and empower people to grow their food., outside of our garden as well.  We also sell plant propagation  and we teach people and empower them to grow food in their backyard,   for example when we sell the Aibika, we always tell them to plant the sticks in their home garden. Our garden keep growing outside of “The farm “.

Flavia smiles “it’s working so well”

Support GrowingRootsPermaculture. Join their upcoming living agroforestry course.

Delight in Wildlife

Author Helen Schwencke shows us how to build complex eco-systems that support the wildlife and enrich our lives.

In our interview, Helen shares her delight in working with nature. Also, she explains why humanity needs to support little creatures. Her book, Inviting Nature to Dinner gives us handy tips on growing your favourite foods without poisoning our environment.

She recalls her childhood playing in nature and his positive experience has fuelled her to work as a scientist and create a rich little suburban garden full of butterflies.

Invite Nature Back Into the City

Helen says: “Back in the 1950s (and I’ve realized that this is where it actually starts).. I’m a very small child. I’m running around on a block of partly cleared land. And there’s all manner of little local native plant and native grasses and little creatures are flying off in all directions like little butterflies, little native bees, little grasshoppers, all different species. And I can just remember this sheer sense of joy and delight and I realize that nearly all my life has been about embracing that joy and delight. I lost it for a long time. But it’s really led me now in the work I’m doing to be sharing and caring about nature nature focus and nurtures us it improves our health and well-being

Helen’s work is about bringing back the delight of nature

Bring back our delight in nature

The easiest way to do it and the simplest way to do it is grow local native plants. The wildlife that they support directly is mostly little creatures. “And these are food for the birds and the frogs and the lizards and the microbats which can be supporting our crops”. But nearly every system of agriculture Helen see excludes wildlife. Because of our historical point of view of being settlers in our land that we don’t understand. Permaculture systems are enriched when they are designed to support wildlife.

Bathing in Nature

Helens “stuff” is about bathing in the nature that nurtures us in our own backyards. And bringing back that sense of aliveness. “We see the colors, the movement, the shapes and the textures of all the the creatures. The vast bulk of them do us no harm at all. In fact, they’re not even interested in our crops!”

Helen has a background as a biologist and ecologist by training. In about 1987 she became involved in butterfly gardening on an inner city Brisbane block. She has watched the transformations of over 75 different species of butterflies and other creatures going through their life cycles. Helen has seen increased complexity through her plantings of native plants. Especially native ground covers. Despite being surrounded by “green desolation” of the suburbs with pools, paving, grass and introduced plants.

Dragon fly

Simplifying ecosystems kills natures complexity

“New creatures are actually finding that space”…Helen became more aware as she collected leaves to feed to caterpillars to photograph their life cycles. “And it’s helped me understand and realize what my early childhood experience meant.”

Helen has learned how vital the animals are. And many invertebrates don’t have a name yet. So, creatures without backbones are important. They have an amazing role to play in food webs.

She can see that humanity is busy eliminating invertebrates wherever we can. And simplifying ecosystems so they can’t exist.

The core of Helen’s work at earthling enterprises is to show these animals as allies rather than competitors. “We need to interplant for biodiversity. This starts to recreate something of the amazing complexity of natural ecosystems in Australia. We can only do a little bit. But, anything is better than what we’re doing now. “

Integrated Technology 7000 yrs+

a Chinese kang uses small twigs to cook food and heat the bed

Rocket Stove Powering On

Get Hot Chow With Low Costs

Rocket stoves are super efficient. All you need is a bundle of sticks or dried cobs to cook dinner for the whole family.  Best of all, this fuel is easy to find. There’s no need to chop down trees or burn fossil fuel.

Last month we went on a great adventure shaoying from shaoyingtours.comstaying in an ancient village in the Shandong province of north-eastern China. We went with fellow Australian, Shoaying. She grew up in rural China and has expertise in Permaculture and Environment Management.

Shoaying is patient, knowledgeable, well-organised and fun. We were keen to see early stove technology known as the Kang.  April and Shaoying on Mulberry Island - shaoyingtours.comOur Permaculture courses demonstrate the use of integrated technologies such as a hybrid Rocket stove.

According to research at Tongji University, “The Chinese Kang is an ancient integrated home system for cooking, sleeping, domestic heating and ventilation. It is still widely used today in nearly 85% of rural homes in northern China. In 2004, there were 67 million Kangs used by 175 million people.”

Archeologists have found Kangs from 7,000 years ago. The Kang is still cooking, heating, drying herbs and garments and ventilating millions of homes everyday.  Ingeniously, the flue of the stove fans out underneath the big family bed in the next room before rising up a chimney in the next wall.  The warmth must be a joy when it is snowing outside and fuel is low.

Unfortunately, the Chinese Kang is in slow decline due to intense urbanisation. Given that each household uses approximately 4kg of poor quality fuel, a small city of a million people would need to bring in 4,000 tonnes of fuel each day and dispose or reuse the ash. This would incur a transportation and network cost. Not to mention the need to redesign existing urban buildings to incorporate chimneys.

However, more efficient rocket-stoves are growing in popularity in other rural and sub-urban areas of the world.

Ancient Rocket Stove Technology hasn't changed much - shaoyingtours.com

What Is A Rocket Stove?

Essentially, a Rocket Stove has well-engineered air flow, there is a J bend to the chimney and  good insulation to increase combustion temperatures. The hottest spot in a rocket stove is not at the flame, it is a little further up where the gases get fully party. As a result, the gases burn off furiously, whipping around in circles before they go up the chimney. A modern rocket stove sounds like a primitive turbo. To get this effect, it has a very good air intake and an elbow in the chimney. The fuel sits on a grate letting the air rush up from underneath. The combustion chamber is underneath the cookplate. In many other wood stoves, a lot of the heat flies away up the chimney.  The rocket stove intensifies the burn then concentrates energy directly at the pan.

Today, science is building toward a standard for the term ‘Rocket’ stove.  Because there is a tiny-sized, yet big difference between a modern Rocket stove [or Rocket-mass heater] the ancient Kang.  The modern Rocket stove has an insulated post-combustion chamber (technical term for a space between the flametips and the cookplate). This chamber intensifies the burn and reduces potential pollutants.  In addition to this technical development, a moving cowl would increase the Venturi effect of the chimney.

Insulation Builds Intensification

Insulation in a firebox is vital for conserving energy. As a result, the outer area of the stove stays cool. Only the flue heats up. In well insulated stoves, the energy is concentrated on the cook-top.  In China, locally made mud-straw bricks surround their stoves.  Sand or ash in the mud-brick can ensure even higher insulation-rates.  The Kang utilises the residual chimney heat. The chimney gases travel from the cooktop through the wall and fan out along a set of tunnels under the bed in the next room, then up a chimney on the next wall. Unlike the insulated stove, the bed has plenty of thermal mass, and the mattress is thin. So, the bed is toasty warm up by the time the dishes are washed.

Stove Fuel Resourcefulness

dumplings on rocket stove - shaoyingtours.com

Fuel is easy to find for the stove. For instance, most people burn a bundle of prunings from local orchards or stalks from the corn and wheat fields. In addition to these, dried corncobs  (after the juicy kernels have been removed) combust very well.  Each house has a collection of little bundles of sticks at their door and sunning on the roof.   Corn husks (the papery outer layer) are a convenient, easy, biodegradable material. Perfect to wrap the dumplings.  Also, rinsing and drying the wrappers enables easy re-use. Finally, these used wrappers become great starter-fuel for the stove.

steamed buns from rocket stove - shaoyingtours.com

Northern Chinese Kang Stoves are very adaptable. You can cook fish or soup at the bottom of the giant wok and stick corn cakes to the sloping sides. Alternatively, you can use water in the base and insert a grid at half way up to steam foods like the dumplings. The video shows how to make glass noodles.  Rocket Stove cuisine of Northern China doesn’t bake or grill foods. In summary, closed cook-pans with quick cook times are more efficient.

At the end of the day, home-made Mooncakes taste wonderful when steam-baked on a kang stove, the traditional way.

By the way, we have a
Permaculture Design Weekend Course
– Nov17th and Nov18th
come and join us!